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Observations

Dad Confession: One Direction

This is my “Dad Confession” for the day.

So I had a moment this morning that should remain private. What happens in the car when you’re alone should remain in the car. Right! Here I am innocently driving my car to work when I hear the local radio station doing live crosses from the local school. Its cute, they play the school choir and everything seems right with the world. But then in a moment of weakness it happened. I don’t know what it was, maybe the first few bars of the song, the sweet production or simply a neuron relapse in the left back lower quadrant of my frontal lobe?

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Featured Articles Observations

Getting Married – Flying on the Trapeze

Pitchford Wedding

Today many couples say that they want to ‘try out’ the relationship first before getting married. Their rationale is that by living together they want to ‘try before they buy’ so they don’t make the mistake of marrying the wrong person. On the surface it seems logical. After all, why not measure twice and cut once? But what is lost in the equation is that they’re losing sight of the difference between flying on the trapeze with a safety net and flying without. It’s a unique aspect of life that kicks us into a higher gear where we perform with greater commitment and our brain, stamina and heart lift to a higher level. I don’t know if you’ve seen the cartoon with the pig and the hen. The hen is telling of its wonderful eggs made available to breakfast plates of bacon and eggs everywhere when the pig jumps in. He cuts to the chase saying, “Huh! For you it’s a contribution but for me its total commitment!”

In my work in the media we can now pre-record audio and video before we broadcast the production. Somehow in the brain that lets us off the hook as a presenter to make a few mistakes, delete the recording and do it again. I know from personal experience, whether on stage or behind the microphone that I’m actually better when its live. You know its got to work and you draw on all your training and creativity to make it a success. The one thing I’ve learned in our marriage is that it’s not a dress rehearsal, its a live performance.

These days it seems we’ve scared a lot of people out of the joy of marriage by the horror stories of divorces gone wrong and mismatched personalities. Sadly they’ve had more publicity through TV soaps, movies and the 6 o’clock news than the successful stories of loving marriages. Why do we only hear about marriage success if a couple makes it to 50 or 60 years? One thing I love about our church is that every Sunday you can go up the front for a free Crunchie chocolate bar if you have something to celebrate from getting your driver’s licence to the arrival of your first grand-child. Every week married couples go up celebrating their wedding anniversary. I love hearing that a couple are in their 14th, 29th or 40th year of marriage and then to see them go up and walk back hand in hand. We seem to have a generation that thinks they will last longer in marriage if they wait till they’re older and yet I would say I’ve seen a majority of young love marriages be the ones that last to say they started strong and finished stronger.

Cheryl and I have known each other for 24 years and we will soon be celebrating our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. This year we are heading away for a weekend at a beach. We probably can only afford to do this kind of thing every 4-5 years but it’s always worth it. I know that through those years we’ve had moments where we wondered how we could keep going. Sometimes it was a big problem but more often than not our pride stumbled on a small stone in the road. I’ve often found we can resolve the issues pretty quick its the part where we have to humble ourselves that actually is the hardest piece of the puzzle.

The best advertisement for marriage is marriage. The photo above shows my stunning babe on our Wedding Day when she was 19 years-old. We still speak of her as my ‘China Doll’, she looked so stunning. We’re a happily married couple with four beautiful kids who we love dearly. As our children are in the 13 to 20 age-group we are starting to enter a new phase of life as we have more adult life experience conversation with them. This is adding to our marriage and giving us a great privilege as Mum and Dad to be involved in our kids life decisions. This is also a pivotal year as our eldest daughter is engaged and preparing for getting married later in the year. What an incredible opportunity for us as parents. We can be inspired by their young warm smitten love and at the same time be able to grab the moment to model a marriage worth pursuing.

We are so proud to have brought them into this world and as I look at the photos around our house of our lives together I can see what value there is in a marriage built without a safety net. We haven’t relied on divorce as an out, or a prenuptial agreement as an exit clause but instead we’ve flown high on the trapeze. We’ve enjoyed the view and the thrills knowing that we need to keep our eyes on God as our ‘catcher’ for this amazing experience. I know we have friends and family who have had to walk through the pain of divorce and we know it isn’t a path they wanted to choose. The life lesson that has kept me honest to the man in the mirror is that I can’t let myself have an out if I’m going to be the best husband, lover, Dad and friend to my wife and family.

Tell your family and friends about what has inspired, taught and challenged you as your marriage has grown. You never know who is looking on and thinking of getting married. And guys, lets not leave it to the ladies to tell the romantic stories to the next generation. A happy bloke is a husband who feels secure with his wife and isn’t afraid to sneak a kiss in front of the kids.

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Media

Movie Review: Safe Haven

Safe Haven Movie Review

Safe Haven is launching in theatres on Valentine’s Day and for the Nicholas Sparks inspired movie this is prime position for another romantic drama to stand alongside his previous works like ‘A Walk to Remember’, ‘The Notebook’ and ‘The Lucky One’. My 15yo daughter was asking after the movie well in advance of its release, wanting to accompany her Dad to the review and for both of us it was a memorable night out. There’s no doubt that Sparks knows how to play the heartstrings and this feature film was always expecting to line up the romantically inclined for a ride. It was clear even from the preview crowd that this was well targeted to the female audience with only about six male members attending amongst a crowd of around 120.

The precept for this encounter surrounds a mysterious young lady on the run with fear in her eyes only to hide in a small American coastal town. Taking the name Katie, our damsel played by Julianne Hough, begins to trust the locals and falls for solo Dad Alex who is raising his two children after the death of his wife from cancer. With two broken people trying to find a fresh start the stage is set for hands edging together in the sand and sunlit backdrops to make you go ‘Aaaah’.

Director Lasse Hallström returns to the Sparks fold after his previous involvement heading up ‘Dear John’. Hallström is rightly revered for his works on Chocolat and The Cider House Rules and although this doesn’t quite draw out the same level of drama the production is very comfortable and meshes together the romantic aspects of a warm family friendly tale with some edgy thriller paced pieces in the story.

Julianne Hough is very ‘at home’ in this role as a woman with a past reaching out for protection and love. Its classic damsel stuff that needs a knight that stands tall in stature. Josh Duhamel is the right man for the job as Alex a Dad trying to raise a cute little lady who remembers the presence of her Mother before she passed away. It’s a role that takes him a long way from the Transformer’s franchise and one he seems settled to enjoy. This was a debut performance for Mimi Kirkland as little Lexie and one she handles well stealing scene after scene with sparkles of cuteness. Dad, Alex’s job is a lot harder dealing with his older child Josh played by Noah Lomax. Josh remembers his Mum and doesn’t want his Dad to forget the lady he remembers for the woman who is new on the scene.

While this could be the guy meets girl routine we do have a couple of surprises thanks to Katie’s past catching up with her. David Lyons gives us another great performance as Tierney and I enjoyed the power of his commitment that puts more edge in the story. If you’ve loved his maniacal side in the TV series REVOLUTION then you’re in for more of a treat. Sometimes we cling close for love and sometimes we cling
closer to hide the fear. Safe Haven will have to fight for its happy ending but it is definitely worth its Valentine’s Day release to enjoy a night out for the ladies.

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Featured Articles Observations

Loving with Our Senses

Dad and Son

I’m sitting outside in the cool summer breeze of a Kiwi evening thinking of all the love I’ve experienced today from my family. What occurs to me is that I’ve had to be awake to loving with our senses. If I hadn’t paid attention I would have missed the power of love and it’s intoxicating inspiration.

You may be wondering what I’ve been drinking with these philosophical comments but the only motivation was life and the only drink on the table is water. I’m caught up in this moment hearing my daughter sing like a diva in the background and remembering moments through the day when I saw, tasted, touched and heard love. It was easy to absorb, gentle to miss and powerful to behold.

Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Let me tell you how I woke up. It wasn’t early, it wasn’t like waking to the chirps of a trained choir of canaries and yet it was clearly more memorable. My twelve year-old son came in with a tray of a steaming hot cooked breakfast and coffee. And thoughtfulness went the extra mile when a bottle of HP sauce was on the tray with knife, fork and a serviette. My wife later filled in the back-story of how he had eyed up some bacon in the fridge and asked if he could cook it. She gently pushed him that there was enough bacon for him to cook his Dad some breakfast and still have enough left for his teenage appetite and so he took up the challenge.

Accepting a gift is the first rule of love. Knowing how to thank the giver is the second. Loving with our senses can involve the taste of a morning breakfast or the touch of a huggable friend. My son loves hugs and the time they take to be near each other. It’s a great response to his generosity to wrap my arms around him and thank him. Now my son’s morning cooking was wonderful and perfect but love can eat a burnt breakfast or salty muffin and still receive the best part of the gift. If you didn’t know your heart has taste buds, bite in again.

Once everyone had shaken the night from their eyes the family went out to enjoy the heat of a cloud free summer’s day. We had family visiting so we took them on a tour of some of the volcanic mountain viewing platforms that surround Auckland. As part of the trip my oldest son brought his newly acquired longboard so we could check with the shop if it was working properly. After going to the shop I complemented him on how well he had handled the visit and the preceding phone calls. He had dealt as a customer with a complaint and yet handled the issue with firmness and humility. I was impressed and didn’t miss the opportunity to tell him he had done well.

A short time later, as we drove to our first destination, he said three softly spoken words; “Love You Dad”. Most fathers will know the power that comes when an 18yo utters those words. It belies a deeper heart, a relationship of love and strength. I buckled a little like a warrior in space hit by an unseen force that buffeted him backwards through the vacuum. My hearing isn’t what it used to be but somehow I am always tuned in to hear these words whenever they are uttered. It doesn’t matter whether they are given in the most quiet delivery or amongst the mish-mash of a loud and crowded room. Listening had made me vulnerable to love, to hearing words that can change a relationship, build a bridge and more importantly melt the walls of a heart. Loving with our senses needs to be intentional, to absorb the love that is happening and emanating around us.

I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern.

Later that day I experienced the joy of love by simply watching. Our eldest son had not always enjoyed the outdoors or sports but his new longboard had given him a zest to get out and ride. The skills were building and he’d been inspired by YouTube videos of experienced speed riders. Today I was inspired as he rode his board around a city park and then near the wharf. His joy was obvious and the pleasure was simple and infectious. Who wouldn’t want to balance their way on a board that put more breeze in your travel and speed under foot.

At one point in the day he shared his board with a three year-old relative and the passion and laughter in sharing was also present. After a walk around the crater’s edge of Mt. Eden he kicked back and lay in deep dry waving grass at the summit. His pleasure is my pleasure. We wanted to take photos of him laying amongst the dry wheat like blades of grass but in doing so he asked for a camera to shoot what he saw. From his position he could see the majesty of sunbeams glancing through tree branches and he took a few photos to remember his moment in the grass. Today I enjoyed loving my son by simply watching him enjoy life, family and the simple thrill of a skateboard.

Over the last few days our visiting relatives have been caught out on at least three occasions thinking the sound coming from one room was either the radio or another music source. On each occasion it was our 14yo daughter delivering an incredible vocal performance of either a cover song she was practicing for a busking adventure or working on one of her own creations. She has a powerful beautiful voice and it can fill a room when she belts out a song.

I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder.

A problem for love is taking talent or good behaviour for granted. It could be a wife who daily cooks with care and thoughtfulness, a husband who keeps to time and tells you what he’s doing or a child who does a chore without being asked. Monotony of excellence should never be an excuse for the spectacular to become the blasé. As I enjoyed several moments this afternoon I realized how blessed I am as a Father and a listener to be hearing my daughter perform her singing in our home. Loving with our senses meant I had to be aware that at any moment I could receive a royal command performance intentionally or otherwise meant just for me. Listening to her sing in one room while practising, then at the dinner table as we jokingly sang, drummed and beat boxed together allowed me to hear love, feel love and be loved.

Today I resolve to be awake to love. I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern. If I am so engrossed in my own world that I am cocooned from love I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder. I don’t want to be safe where my misguided perception is that a closed quiet room is better than leaving my bed to enjoy the warm embrace of a friend. Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Originally written January 5th 2013

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Strong Enough

Time and Slumber

Forgive me if I’m wrong but this looks like more than I can do on my own.
Lyrics – Matthew West ‘Strong Enough’

There are times in our life when we meet faith head on. I’m walking that path now. My gut says “hang on” but the tear ducts yell “run away”. It’s where all the things you’ve learned about yourself and the God you love meet at a crossroads of decision.

I know that I want to come through this having learned new levels of faith and strengthened muscles I probably didn’t know I had. I want to be ‘Strong Enough’ and not weak. One thing about crossroads is that they sometimes seem to be like a cloverleaf freeway on-ramp of possibilities. More than one decision faces you and the traffic seems heavy and fast. Its at these times that you need focus and good visibility.

This last weekend I wanted to find a quiet place to ‘hear’ more clearly. It wasn’t about the sound proofing of the closet, it was about finding time for me and God to hangout and talk things through. Thanks to an understanding wife and children I was able to have Saturday to do just that. For me the best place to think is a ‘drive’. So come Saturday morning I woke with only the concept of heading out for the day with God, my steering wheel and a tar sealed centre line.

Just before leaving home I had the idea of going to a wonderful beach spot a couple of hours away where 22 years ago my then girlfriend and I went to seek God on the whole idea of marriage. We were deeply in love but we didn’t know if this should go to the biggest commitment of marriage. We drove to this beach and together as well as individually we sought God in prayer and through His Word for  an answer. I think the greatest result of that day was the peace we received walking into our life together.

One of the things that set the tone for this day just past was checking my phone and seeing I had the entire Keith Green collection on it I set the playlist to ‘shuffle’ and let God drive the conversation through the music. The lyrics of the music brought me back to some home truth’s on my own commitment. Keith Green would have been the Lecrae of his time and it was just great to be back in sync with youthful passions through the music in the car. I remember at one point just asking the Lord to be with me in the car. I looked at the passenger seat beside me and saw that I had my shoulder bag and water bottle there. I felt they needed to be moved if Jesus was going to have a seat next to me so I took them off the seat. It was my way of inviting the Lord into that space beside me. I know this may sound slightly irreverent but for me it then felt I was on a road trip with Jesus. We were talking when we talked and listening to the Keith Green tracks as we went. Jesus, Me and Keith; it was quite a trip.

After a drive around the beach, taking photos of an aero-club meet and spending time overlooking the cliffs at an old Children’s Bible Camp I went to as a child, I then drove another hour to see my parents. My Dad was out so it was just Mum and I. Sometimes you need one on one time with someone close. Mum later said she found it a blessing that we were able to be together to talk and pray as just the two of us. Often my family and Dad are around and it was so it was just unique to have time with Mum. Her caring heart, wise counsel and spirit-led prayer were anchors in the day.

Although it was now late afternoon I didn’t feel it was time to go home so I set the GPS for a new destination on the opposite coast of New Zealand to Bethlehem, a small coastal town north of Tauranga. I knew some old friends were there but they didn’t answer their phone. I started the drive anyway as it is an enjoyable scenic drive. On arrival I felt to contact these old Youth Group Leaders and after a couple of calls connected with them via mobile. While they were an hour away from the direction I’d just come, they encouraged me to go to their house which they told me how to enter, and make myself at home. This was a blessing as I had an hour of total quiet to sit, pray and read. Here I demolished Philippians and was saturated with encouragement from Paul’s letter.

When my friends arrived I was falling asleep. Thankfully their smiles and conversation reignited the coals of my energy level and we spoke for about three hours. God speaking through friends who let go of their agenda and display God’s is powerful. They didn’t tell me what to do, they shared with me God’s heart for me, my future and my family. One of the best pieces of advice that was dropped into that conversation was to think on the attributes of God and His character. It was a drop of refreshing salve on the parched skin.

My drive home was a great time to finish the day singing in the car just out of a heart of gratitude for every aspect of the day. It was just before 1am when I walked through the door to a much needed bed.

The crossroad is still before me but I’m not driving alone. The words of Matthew West’s song ‘Strong Enough’ emphasise that journey.